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Amazon fulfilling orders for hazardous products; possibly contributed to fatal accident

As most product marketers are aware, Amazon has a serious problem with counterfeits.  Some of the most innocuous products such as wipes for cleaning eyeglass lenses are being counterfeited and sold on the platform at an alarming rate.  What’s worse, is that due to the “flea market” atmosphere of the site, dangerous and potentially fatal products are flooding the market; many under the seemingly protective marker of “fulfilled by Amazon.”   

A recent investigation by the Wall Street Journal revealed that over 4000 items for sale on Amazon were mislabeled, declared unsafe by US agencies, or all-out banned by federal regulators.  Horrifically, over 2000 of those Amazon listings were medications and children’s toys that lacked proper health and safety warnings.  Specifically, the investigators ordered and tested 10 children’s products, many promoted as “Amazon’s Choice.” Four failed tests based on federal safety standards.  Moreover, 46% of the 4152 unsafe products were fulfilled by Amazon. 

Sadly, a mislabeled product sold on Amazon was involved in the death of one consumer.  In 2014, Albert Stokes purchased a motorcycle helmet on Amazon that was listed as certified by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Subsequently, Mr. Stokes was involved in a fatal accident wherein his helmet came off. His mother sued Amazon claiming the helmet was defective, but ultimately settled for $5,000 with no admission of liability from Amazon. However, in July 2019 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that the helmet was not DOT compliant and that it had been recalled.  At that time, it was still listed as DOT compliant on Amazon.  The listing has since been removed (5 years after the accident). 

Whether you are selling lens wipes or motorcycle helmets, cheap counterfeits of your product can pose hidden dangers to consumers.  Not only does this erode your brand image, but it can also open you up to unwanted liability claims.  While Amazon is taking steps to make it easier to monitor and remove counterfeits from the platform, it is far from a perfect system. Product marketers should consult with an experienced attorney who can navigate Amazon’s platform and help ensure that their trademarks, copyrights and brand name do not appear on listings for potentially hazardous counterfeits.

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